The Furniture of Words

Writing is a tool, not an outcome.

Sometimes when I read, I am forced to remind myself of this somewhere in the back of my head.

There are stories that are pieces of technical perfection, polished to a fine gleam, in perfectly ordered sequence.

They are also as lifeless as the fine pieces of wooden furniture they most seem to emulate.

What shows up on the page is not the destination when we read, it is the vehicle. Words shouldn’t start and end with what we see but should instead transport us into our own imagination, our own sets of realities.

If someone is trying to tell a story, then the words should be there to tell us a story, not to make us marvel at the way they beautifully reflect the light… and make us lose the thread of what they are actually trying to say.

It is not that beautiful words and beautiful writing do not have their place, but their place should be in service to what they are trying to say rather than the other way around.

Ultimately, in a story, the words are both the scaffolding and the furniture in the room where the story takes place. They provide support and the vague shape and sense of what the room contains, but ultimately it is what the inhabitants of the room do that will create the story that fills the room.

If there is too much furniture, too many finally polished works filling every nook and cranny, the story will keep tripping over itself trying to get anywhere.

The story will never be able to take off and find its own pathway.

The difference between a mechanical telling and a story that lives is difficult to see or explain, since it is often something that we instinctively know and recognize.

I like to think of a living story as what comes up between the spaces we leave in our writing.

If we are lucky, life finds the cracks between the words.

If we are very lucky, our words allow life to bloom, rather than sitting as a still collection of polished furniture.

IMG_1087The chair is not the living part of this picture.

Stories that live and breathe have always drawn me in and held their own rooms within my head.


If you would like to see my own attempt at word cultivation, my fantasy novel,  The Guests of Honor, is available here.

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